Over 60 years after an eight-judge Bench declared that Right to Privacy is not a fundamental right, the Supreme Court on Thursday decided to set up another Constitution Bench to re-look the question in the light of raging controversy that the Aadhaar card scheme is an invasion into citizen's privacy.
In 1954, the Supreme Court Bench led by the then Chief Justice M.C. Mahajan held that Right to Privacy is not recognised by the Constitution makers as a fundamental right, and so there is no need to strain to make it one.
This judgment in M.P. Sharma versus Satish Chandra, Delhi Magistrate held that the state's power of search and seizure was "overriding" and necessary for the protection of social security.
The new Constitution Bench, which will sit for the first time on October 14, will hear the fundamental issue whether the state is in the right by creating a situation by which a citizen is enticed to >voluntarily part with his privacy rights — bank account details, fingerprints, iris signatures, and so on — for social benefit schemes he is already entitled to from a welfare state.
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi on Thursday made an urgent mention before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu that a >previous order by the Supreme Court on August 11, restricting the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes, is affecting day-to-day governance and depriving crores of beneficiaries easy access to other welfare schemes.
Mr. Rohatgi urged the CJI Bench to set up >a nine-judge Constitution Bench to authoritatively hear and decide the constitutional question of right to privacy.
On October 7, a three-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar did not alter its August 11 interim order. That order had held that the “balance of interest” is better served if obtaining Aadhar was neither mandatory nor a condition for accessing government benefits and services.
A flurry of applications had followed from various government bodies, NGOs and several State governments. Toeing the Centre's line, they argued in one voice that the Supreme Court order stood in the way of crores of Aadhaar holders who wanted easy access to other social benefits schemes and services by restricting Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes.
Some of these bodies ínclude the Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Pension Regulatory and Development Authority.